About 7s Special Introduction Seven and Fifteens Basic guide
History of Sevens Melrose and Middlesex Hong Kong Taupiri
7s in USA Seven Styles Attack Deffense
Kickoffs and DropOuts Set Scrums Lineouts Set Plays
Kicking Drills for Sevens Three-week practice A 7s program
Fitness & Training Fitness Testing Selection Analyisis Using Videotape
Americanizing Sevens Bibliography Acknowledgements Profile

The Line Out

"The philosophies for winning the ball at lineouts are endless. -- Dick Best

Although not as important, in terms of frequency, as either the set scrum or the kickoff, lineouts do occur on the average about two or three times per sevens match, and, as at any ball-winning situation, it is vital that on those occasions the ball be won by us.

Furthermore, if we can't at least guarantee winning our own lineout, it may be an incentive for the opponents to kick to touch for territorial gain more often than they normally would, counting on our ineptness at the lineout to give them not just territory, but the ball as well.

Finally, we need ways to pressure the opponents on their ball; if we concede good lineout ball to them, it's almost as good as giving them a free kick; they'll have lots of room in which to run their ploys (and lots of space into which they can put their winger).

Our throw in

Number of jumpers

The laws require that you put at least 2 jumpers in the lineout, and that is the number that most teams use. Nevertheless, if all three of your forwards are tall and can jump (and if your scrum half can throw in), using 3 jumpers should also be considered.

3-man line: the primary object of our lineout is to win the ball, and the number of jumpers should be chosen with a view to maximizing the probability that we win it. If we have three tall forwards and the opposition has only two, we may very well consider putting all three in the line to give us an additional option, particularly if, for whatever reason, we feel that winning the ball with our 2 main jumpers is not a high probability option.

2-man line: There are two main options:

  1. Hooker and scrum half both participate (traditional). Having the hooker throw in, and using the scrum half at the scrum half position is both traditional and safer: there are more outlets for the jumper and more nearby defensive cover if we lose the ball.

  2. Scrum half [or hooker] throws in and distributes. If we have a hooker that can run and handle, and at least one forward that will win our ball virtually every time, we can use the hooker as an additional back. If they don't mark that player, we have an automatic overlap. Even if they do, there are lots of creative options remaining to us. (Alternatively, and virtually identically, we can use the hooker to throw in and make the link pass with the backs, with the scrum half lining up in the backfield.)

Jumpers. Traditionally, the two props are the two jumpers. This does not, however, have to be the case. In the 1985 US club championships, Bethlehem played used tall center Dave Priestas as a jumper, placing hooker Jerry Skiko (a 15-a-side center) in the backfield at the lineout.

Types of throws. Whatever options you've used in 15s will work here. Dick Best explains:

The philosophies for winning the ball at lineouts are endless. You basically have two jumpers who know where the ball is going, and their opponents do not. There are hundreds of ploys that one can dream up for this: both jumpers can go backwards or forwards, both forwards can go straight up; automatically there are six options for you to win the ball. The pair of them can change positions, the scrum half can come into the lineout, the options are endless.

He adds, of course, what is perhaps obvious but always needs restating:

You must have somebody who throws the ball in who is skillful enough to put the ball where you want it.

Interestingly, one of the traditional ploys at the two-man lineout--the front jumper moving backward with the back jumper running around and catching the ball at the front of the lineout--was declared to be illegal at Hong Kong in 1988, and Australia was penalized for using it.

Both Australian and American referees agree, however, that this ploy is legal "as long as lineout participants are on the line of touch when the ball 'leaves the hand' of the thrower." Strictly speaking, it is almost impossible to fulfill these requirements and run the play effectively, but one hopes that most referees take a "constructive" view of the play. Play the ref.

Although the long throw over the top to the backs is an option, it's a high risk option and it is not uncommon to see defenders score from a broken play from this situation. I discourage it.

Mike Williams recommends that the tallest forward be placed at the back of the lineout:

Then, the tall man will be effective with a high dropping ball, and the small forward at the front with a fast, low ball, perhaps head or chest high. The tall forward will be able to use his height and reach by jumping to the ball in the air, thus maximizing his advantages, while the small forward will be able to jump across the flight of the ball and either drag it on to his chest of deflect it with his arms to the scrum-half, so that his height disadvantage is minimize.

You'll probably want to assign a priority to the order in which you perfect your lineout technique.

For example, despite Mike Williams' advice to put your taller jumper in the back, you may well decide that it's easier to put that jumper in the front where the thrower has an easier throw. (Remember that in an average sevens game you'll only get between one and two opportunities to throw the ball in.)

Initially, then, you may want to spend most of your time at practice working on options to the front jumper: the jumper and the thrower can work on several types of throws that rely on timing rather than jumping ability alone. With good timing between the hooker and the front jumper, it is very difficult for the defender to win the ball. After you're comfortable with all these options, you can move onto variations with the back jumper (maybe even rotate your better jumper between the front and the back) (when the better jumper is at the back, all the variations listed by Williams will be applicable) and other ploys to win the ball.

Some "tricky" variations to the front jumper that have worked include the "shoelace" throw and the football snap.

Salty Thompson of the Tempe Old Devils has mastered the former: he places the ball on the ground and goes to rearrange his shoelaces. The front jumper is standing about 8 meters from the touch line. The instant the throwers' hand moves from his shoe, the jumper races towards the touch line. Simultaneously, the thrower scoops the ball off the ground and hits the jumper in the hands at about 5.1 meters from touch.

Eagle scrum half Tommy Smith developed a variation of this play which worked very successfully in the 1988 international tournaments. Tommy would signal the front jumper of his intentions, and then walk to the ball -- which he had placed a couple feet in touch at the line of touch -- face away from the field, and suddenly bend over and hike the ball between his legs to the front jumper, moving forward as above.

The Koreans have won several lineouts at the Hong Kong and Sydney Sevens with the following ploy: their front jumper leaps in the air (presumably the defender does the same), at which time the thrower bounces the ball on the ground under the jumpers' legs. The second jumper steps forward, boxing out the back defender, and retrieves the ball on the bounce. Note that the ball must land at least 5 meters from touch.

The Japanese have used a similar ploy in 15s that requires much more practice but can be effective. The ball is thrown at the ground at the front jumper's feet; the jumper's foot gets in position to contact the ball, which is then transferred to the scrum half with a kick.

Having said all that, if you have a jumper that can out-jump the opponents at will, keep it simple and just put it up

high enough for that jumper to win.

Only your imagination (and the laws) limit the possibilities.

Their throw in

Against their 2-man line

Their scrum half in traditional location. The traditional way to play defense at this lineout is to mark the two jumpers and have the defending scrum half play opposite the attacking scrum half.

This is still the standard defense played by most. For each defender, simply "compete" is Bob Dwyer's message; Pete Thorburn's "compete hard." Dick Best says enigmatically,

when things are desperate, we employ certain techniques in the lineout that are, if you like, basically cheating, and it would not be

professional for me to tell about them . . .

One viable option with which I have had success is to use all three forwards to defend at the 2-man lineout. One possibility is simply to play them as above (with the middle player, probably the hooker, marking the scrum half). Another is to use them all as potential jumpers, playing a zone defense against anyone -- the two jumpers or the scrum half -- that might be used to win lineout ball.

In order to fulfill the letter of the law, one of these "jumpers" must be noticeably behind the parallel line formed by the other two (becoming the legal "scrum half"). The three jumpers basically play a zone defense, with either the 2nd or 3rd jumper as the "legal" scrum half. The front defender fronts their front jumper and NEVER gets beat to the front. The 2nd and 3rd defenders play the middle and back thirds of the 5 to 15 meter area.

Exactly where the back two defenders stand and what area they cover will depend to some degree on the strengths of their opponents; if we're playing against a team that relies entirely on one jumper, we can use this defense to double team that jumper. This was the case against Gala in the 1987 Melrose Sevens, where the Cougars were able to neutralize Gala's 6'7" jumper by double-teaming him with 6'4" John Fowler and Cecil Youngblood.

The concept lends itself to many variations. I prefer that the back defender be off the line, in the scrum half position, to react to a throw to the back by running into the lineout, either in front of the intended receiver to intercept the pass, or back with the deep jumper to challenge the long throw. This defensive formation is shown in Figure B6-1.

If the ball is thrown to the back jumper being covered by the third defender, and the scrum half loops to the open side, the center defender needs to loop around to take the scrum half (defensive options after the ball is won need to be worked out, but it's not too difficult to do so).

Against the Netherlands in the 1989 Hong Kong Sevens this defense got the US into trouble when the scrum half went long and took a pass from his back jumper, who had won it jumping against our back defender; our middle defender had stepped across the line towards the scrum half and was out of position when the scrum half looped.

Their extra attacker in backfield. The traditional defense is to mark the two jumpers, and deal with the potential overlap by standing the scrum half (or hooker) back 10 meters from the line of touch, basically forming part of a 4-man defensive line.

The same zone defense described above can also be used, with responsibilities as follows: the back of the three defenders at the line has responsibility for the first attacker in the backfield, with the fly half sliding out a player (the traditional slide defense in 15s). Thus the immediate overlap is covered. If the ball is won at the back of the lineout, the middle defender must get out and cover the first back so that the fly half, center and wing can cover the next three.

Against their 3-man line. In the few instances that the opponents use three jumpers, it will surely be with the scrum half throwing in and gathering the pass back from the lineout as well.

We'll mark their 3 jumpers with 3 of ours. We'll probably play a combination man/zone defense: for example, we'll never let ourselves get beat to the front, so our middle defender may cover the front jumper moving back for a lob throw.

The defending scrum half in this situation is allowed to act as either a the opponent of the player throwing in (standing in the 5-meter area), or as the opponent of the player who receives the ball from the line-out jumper (standing in the traditional scrum half area). If we choose that defender to be the scrum half we can turn this into a 4-man version of the zone defense mentioned above.

Defense after ball is lost

The first thing we need to do is assure that the jumper who catches the ball at the lineout doesn't make a break: with the zone concept that I've been discussing, we need to know who has the jumper at the jump, and that defender needs to keep that jumper from advancing.

After the ball gets out to the backs, we need to get one of the players to move into a sweeping position (whether as the only sweeper or whether sharing that responsibility with the wing). This is usually the opponent of the thrower in, i.e. the player that stands in the 5-meter area, although Fiji at the 1990 Hong Kong Sevens used fly half Waisali Serevi to sweep.

The rest of the defensive responsibilities in this situation have been discussed earlier in the chapter.

Lineouts only represents about 10% of the set pieces in the game of sevens; nevertheless, we need to be prepared to win every one of our balls, and spoil or even steal a couple of theirs. In a close game, one lineout can make the difference between winning and losing

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